The Battle of IDF Soldier Achiya Ovadia

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Most of us have already forgotten the name Achiya Ovadia, the soldier who was once affiliated with the Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva who along with a friend held up a poster opposing the removal of Jews from Chomesh during a Shimshon Battalion swearing-in ceremony at the Kosel.
Now, close to three months since the incident, Ovadia is carrying on his own private battle against the IDF. He has since been jailed for his actions, removed from Har Bracha’s program [which has since been ousted from the hesder network] and he has been removed from the hesder framework, told he must serve the remainder of his military service as a mainstream soldier, out of the Torah framework.
Achiya was not too bothered by the first decisions, since while in jail he continued learning Torah. Once he was told that he would have to complete his service outside of a Torah framework, he informed his commanders that he is on strike, unwilling to take part in any military activities, opting to remain in prison, a reality that permits him to learn Torah fulltime. 
In all honestly, his superiors are at a loss, admitting that prior to the banner incident at the Kosel, he was regarded to be a good soldier, well-liked, but today, he is unwilling to budge, despites threats of legal action and other retaliatory moves by the military. He simply will not accept a reality that deprives him of a Torah way of life. 
After Pesach he decided to move things along, telling his commanders he is unwilling to continue in limbo, stating they must reinstate him into a hesder framework, or alternatively, place him on trial. He has also been removed from his status as a combat soldier as a result of his actions. He told them “when you decide to give me a military trial you can find me in yeshiva where I am returning to learn”. His words resulted in his being brought before a deputy battalion commander who sentenced him to 20 days in jail. He is now hopeful that this may have started a process that will compel the IDF to reach a decision regarding his future, back to a hesder framework or throw him out of the military completely. 
Four other former Har Bracha soldiers are in a similar situation, also declaring they are beginning a strike this week as well. They are giving the army an alternative, to return them to Har Bracha or to oust them, unwilling to sign to move to another yeshiva. They insist they will not accept mainstreaming which would entail serving in a non-Torah atmosphere. 
Beit El resident Chaim Yehuda Greenwald, serving in the Armored Corps, was sentenced to 28 days in jail. He told his commanders a number of days ago that he is on strike, returning his weapon and refusing to do any and all military-related assignments. His mother, Rivka, is quoted in the weekly B’Sheva newspaper as saying “He reached his decision following consultations with me and his father, and we back him completely”.  Rivka adds that while they are not happy their son is being sent to jail, they are extremely proud of him, his determination to live by his principles. 
MK (Ichud HaLeumi) Yaakov Katz sent a harshly-worded letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, calling upon him to order Yehuda released from jail, stating it is simply unacceptable that the soldier is sent to jail for refusing to accept a decision forced upon him that radically changes his life and service. He added that every minute he sits in jail is nothing less than a “slap in the face” to the motivated soldiers. 
Another soldier, Har Bracha Eliad Sela, is married and the father of a baby girl. He was sentenced to 21 days on the base without leave. Two others who refused to sign on the agreement to move to another hesder or be mainstreamed, from Rechovot and Ra’anana, are being ousted from the Kfir Brigade and removed from combat positions without any trial or due process. 
29 soldiers affiliated with Har Bracha were summoned for a discussion before Pesach, and they were compelled to give their final decision following yomtov. Other soldiers are compelled to sign on to another yeshiva as well, including those who have returned to beis medresh following service, such as the fifth year talmidim. IDF Personnel Branch officials have opted to ignore them after understanding it is their last year, which is spent exclusively in beis medrash, and they are willing to go to jail rather than sign on to a new yeshiva in the hesder network. 
Many students found themselves in a dilemma, but the yeshiva released an official policy statement offering to assist talmidim to sign on to a new hesder yeshiva program. Har Bracha is no longer in hesder, and it is now a yeshiva gevoha. 
Hesder spokesman Rav David Stav explains that the actions of the government are most unfortunate, but he is aware of the political realities, pointing out the last thing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is seeking is a head-to-head clash with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, explaining why the prime minister did not interfere in Barak’s decision to oust Har Bracha from the system. He also states that while being aware that chances of success are indeed minimal, he and his colleagues are continuing a dialogue with a number of senior Defense Ministry officials towards having Har Bracha reinstated in the hesder system. 
B’Sheva also quotes Tzfas Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who insists the battle being waged by the four soldiers is not theirs alone, but everyone must stand behind them and Har Bracha and declare “We are all Har Bracha”, explaining if the four back down, the ramifications will be difficult for all, and this mustn’t be permitted to occur. He is calling for solidarity among all the hesder yeshivot to come out in a unified stand behind Har Bracha.
In his weekly column in the newspaper, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, the rosh yeshiva in Har Bracha, writes that efforts were made some five years ago, by IDF Chief of Personnel Branch Major-General Elazar Stern and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz tried to oust the yeshiva from hesder in response to his written criticism on the status of religion in the IDF. At that time, Defense Ministry officials did not permit the move, adding it appears that then, they understood everyone is entitled to present his opinion, even a rav.
Today the rav laments, even with the Labor Party all but dissolved, it continues running the country, there is no building in Yehuda and Shomron, no loyalty to Eretz Yisrael, and a yeshiva has been ousted. Despite the difficulties explains the rav, “we will continue on our path and we have no regrets”.  (Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)


2 COMMENTS

  1. Are we ready and prepared to raise money for his trail, hire the best lawyers possible and demonstrate for his release?
    You know the answer as well as I do,……we are so hypocritical about what is impt to our life, which battles we will fight, and who we REALLY care about? Amen..